Every actor dreams of Broadway.
Few make it. Fewer still get to perform in a show they adore, in roles they love. And do it over 600 times.
Adam Kaplan is that very rare actor. And he’s still only 24 years old.
The 2008 Staples grad — whose Players credits include “Romeo and Juliet,” “Children of Eden” and “Diary of Anne Frank” — parlayed his musical theater degree from Elon into 2 roles, plus understudy for the lead, in “Newsies.”
The long-running show closed last month. But it’s hard to envision a more exciting run for a young actor than that.
The musical about early 20th century newsboys captivated Adam the first time he saw it. Less than 6 months later — on February 19, 2013 — he was a “newsie” himself, on the Nederlander stage.
Throughout high school and college, he’d worked on shows from the ground up. Suddenly he was thrust into a tight-knit, cohesive cast. He was replacing a well-loved actor. Add the pressure of performing on Broadway — well, sure, he was nervous.
But, Adam says, he was accepted instantly. “I was a member of ‘the gang.'” Quickly, he realized, he was part of something special.
Adam Kaplan (carrying a fellow actor on his back) strikes the same pose as shown on the theater door (where he’s wearing a striped shirt). This shot was taken the day the poster went up.
There was plenty of press, and promotions on shows like “Good Morning America.” Fans wrote emails and letters, and thronged the stage door.
“It was all the glitz and glamour I expected — times 10,” Adam says.
It was also hard work. For a year and a half — 8 times a week — Adam sang and danced with high energy and great intensity.
“You have to work to keep it fresh,” he admits. “It’s important to remember that it may be our 500th performance. But for most of the audience, this is their 1st.”
He remembers his 1st time seeing “Newsies.” And — years earlier — his 1st Broadway show. So does the rest of the cast.
“We’d talk backstage about how important it is to inspire kids, just like we were inspired,” he says.
Inspire they did. Adam and the other actors received piles of mail from fans — young and older — who described being bullied, having a bad day or losing their passion for something, then being lifted skyward by “Newsies.”
“Not every show can do that,” Adam says.
A very moving letter from a fan. A high school girl told Adam that “Newsies” changed her life. After seeing it, she had the courage to try out for a show — and is now part of the theater community.
The cast, in turn, was inspired by the letters. They read and responded to every one.
“I hit the jackpot,” Adam reiterates. “I have a friend who joined a long-running show in the middle. The cast was so jaded. But everyone in ‘Newsies’ was so happy to be there.
“It was the 1st show for a lot of us. We all lifted each other up.”
Adam also appreciates the chance to play multiple roles. In addition to the authority figure Morris, and a rabble-rousing newsboy, he went on nearly 40 times as the understudy for Jack Kelly, the tour de force lead.
Adam’s last show as Jack was August 10 — the day after his birthday. It was a very emotional day.
The cast had learned in late June that “Newsies” would close soon. No one saw it coming.
Adam Kaplan (left) celebrates the final weeks.
“Lots of shows, when they know the end is near, they lose their edge,” Adam says. “Things start to slide. We were fresh. But Disney [the producer] wanted to end on top, and they did.”
Of course, “Newsies” lives on. Three weeks ago Adam went to Chicago, to promote a national tour. He sang “Santa Fe” — one of his favorite songs — in front of 18,000 people in Millenium Park. He felt like a rock star.
“Newsies” certainly has a devoted audience. “I don’t think I’ll ever be part of a show that had the energy of of closing night,” he says. “We got standing ovations after every number. People even applauded after their favorite lines.”
Even after it’s closed, fans write in. They say the show gave them the confidence to go on, despite tumultuous times. “That’s what’s so rewarding about theater in general, and this show in particular,” Adam says.
Some of those fans are from his home town. The young actor includes Westport in his official biography, because “I love this place.” As a result, the stage door crowd often included current or former Westporters who had not known beforehand that they’d see a Staples Player alum on stage.
The work of a star is never done.
Still, as always happens to actors, Adam Kaplan is looking for his next gig. He just finished shooting a TV pilot, and is also auditioning for other stage roles. He may be back on Broadway, or with a national touring company or regional theater.
“It’s back to the grind,” he says. “Being an actor is what I always wanted. I love performing. But I never expected to be here so soon. I’m just so happy to be part of this community.”